Home Top Stories Claims and Objections easiest way to move forward – Opposition Leader
The path forward is clear for any unbiased Guyanese to see, according to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who stressed the need for a Claims and Objections exercise to be immediately commenced, as a time tested means of producing a voters’ list to allow for elections to be held within the constitutionally mandated timeframe.
At his last news conference, he said, “Claims and Objections is [a] tested method. The easiest way to move forward is to use Claims and Objections….it is what we can do in a short time and it is not alien to the GECOM Secretariat”.
He underscored the fact that there is a deadline for General and Regional Elections to be held in Guyana – that is by September 18, 2019.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) made clear that the three-month election clock started on June 18, 2018, when it ruled that the No-Confidence Motion was validly and successfully passed – a final ruling after months of legal challenges. GECOM was also named by the CCJ in its consequential orders and the Court made it clear that GECOM must comply with the Constitution.
Referring to a work plan produced by the GECOM Secretariat in March 2019 – one that has not been disavowed – he said two viable options were advanced in March 2019 – Claims and Objections, running for 119 days to result in an Official List of Electors and a new national House-to-House Registration, running for 290 days.
The House-to-House Registration option, he explained, if adjusted for delays, will move Guyana long past the three-month election deadline – to sometime in February 2020 – just to arrive at a new National Register of Registrants. He pointed out that the field exercise alone will be completed on October 20, 2019 – one month after the constitutional deadline for elections to be held.
According to him, the last House-to-House Registration, done under different circumstances, took almost two years to be completed and still ended with some flaws that were identified. As such, he reasoned that the February 2020 end date may very likely have to be extended further.
He added too that Guyanese will have to wait until 2020 to get back to the position we are currently at – that is, having a valid National Register of Registrants.
The Opposition Leader pointed out too that the move to House-to-House Registration was done on the basis of the secretary gazetted June 11, 2019, order which was overtaken by the June 18, 2019, ruling of the CCJ, as well as its consequential orders issued on July 12, 2019.
Jagdeo lamented the fact that in addition to pushing Guyana months past the constitutional deadline for elections to be held, House-to-House Registration will result in the de-registration of countless numbers of Guyanese – Guyanese students who are studying abroad and Guyanese working overseas and persons in the hinterland who are not at their place of abode at the time GECOM officers visit, among others – and it is currently the subject of a court challenge. Guyana’s Constitution only requires that to be registered as a voter, you must be a Guyanese and are 18 years and older. There is no residency requirement.
The Opposition Leader pointed out that the legal challenge to House-to-House Registration before the High Court could end up all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice. He charged that if House-to-House Registration goes forward, and an election is held on a voters’ list generated through that process, that election could be invalidated if the CCJ rules that the House-to-House Registration, as currently being done, is unconstitutional.
Jagdeo said too that currently, a major stakeholder, the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C), was not invited and is not participating in the ongoing House-to-House Registration.
“Why go a route that will create more problems for [the] country? Why go a route that is vastly inferior and will take longer?” he questioned.
Currently, Guyana has a National Register of Registrants – which is used to produce a Preliminary List of Voters that is then finalised as the Official Voters’ List to be used at elections. The current National Register of Registrants has not expired.
Jagdeo stated that there were also no complaints about the National Register of Registrants by GECOM’s Commissioners or the former GECOM Chairman, who was illegally appointed by President David Granger.
The Opposition Leader stated that the very National Register of Registrants was used for the recently concluded Local Government Elections and the voters’ list, not the National Register of Registrants, only expired on April 30, 2019 – weeks after the March 21, 2019, deadline when the CCJ said elections should have been held by.
He noted that the only argument being made to justify House-to-House Registration by the APNU/AFC coalition is that the voters’ list is bloated and young people are not registered. Jagdeo dubbed these as weak arguments. He noted that any such matter can be addressed through a Claims and Objections exercise.
For these reasons, Jagdeo stressed that there must be a move to Claims and Objections.
GECOM has said that a Claims and Objections exercise will:
1. Allow any eligible Guyanese who has reached the age of 18 years old to be
registered if their name is not on the voters’ list.
2. Allow any eligible Guyanese to get a transfer from one voting district to another, in the event that they changed their place of residence.
3. Allow any eligible Guyanese to do a name change.
4. Allow for the removal of a dead person from the voters’ list.
5. Allow for objections to be made to the name of someone not eligible to be on the voters’ list.
Notably, despite these facts, Granger is holding on to the line that the voters’ list is flawed – bloated by some 200,000. This is a position that has been publicly rejected by the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, on July 23, 2019. When asked to comment on Granger’s assertion that the voters’ list is bloated by about 200,000 names, Lowenfield, on July 23, 2019, said, “You are saying my list is bloated….bloat is not a word I would affix to it [the list].” The Chief Elections Officer also stated that Granger’s claims are based on speculation. Lowenfield said, “It’s speculative. I will want to do an exercise to determine
that amount and that exercise can be done,” he said.
Further, the Report of the United Nations (UN) Electoral Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) – May 7-11, 2018 – made clear that a voters’ list will not have more credibility.
The report said: “It is the view of the NAM that there is no certainty that a new voters’ list will have more credibility than the current list and that stakeholders will trust it more.
Furthermore, any list created close to the elections will likely be criticised as politically motivated.”
Reason must prevail
The Opposition Leader added that moving forward, reason must prevail. He said, “If the President listens, he would understand that House-to-House Registration will not allow for compliance with the Constitution or the ruling and orders of the CCJ….the concerns he had raised about the voters’ list can be addressed by a Claims and Objections period.
“…if the President is interested in credible election, then work with us…it doesn’t matter which part of the political divide you are on, it is plain pure logic. This is where our arguments are, logic.”
Despite the continued calls by the parliamentary Opposition, the Granger-led Government has not significantly changed its position on the way forward – even as Guyana is weeks away from the September 18, 2019, deadline.